China Adds Capabilities To Y-9 Special-Mission Aircraft

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The KJ-500 mounted on a Y-9 with an in-flight refuelling probe above the cockpit was seen departing Shaanxi Aircraft Corporation’s airfield in Hanzhong
China is expanding the special-mission versions of the Shaanxi Y-9 transport aircraft. Photographs of a KJ-500 Airborne Early Warning (AEW) aircraft with in-flight refuelling (IFR) probe added, and of an electronic warfare version, have appeared on the Chinese internet.
The KJ-500 was photographed departing Shaanxi Aircraft Corporation’s airfield in Hanzhong, Shaanxi, China. This is the first appearance of this aircraft with an IFR probe. It is not known if this aircraft is one of the eight new airframes that were photographed by satellite earlier this year. Currently, the People’s Liberation Army Air Force (PLAAF) operates at least four KJ-500s, along with four KJ-2000 AEW aircraft based on the Il-76 airframe.
The KJ-500 has a three-sided active electronically scanned array radar, with a smaller power output than the AEW radar on the KJ-2000. The ability to conduct air-to-air refueling will enable the KJ-500 to perform longer sorties with other PLAAF composite forces. It will also provide persistent AEW overwatch for the Chinese Navy’s carrier fleet, which currently lacks a capable AEW platform.
The new electronic warfare version of the Y-9 is unofficially known as the Gao Xin (GX)-11/12. Then one that was photographed showed two large, side-facing arrays on the port side, one near the ramp door and another aft of the cockpit. Another satellite image showed another GX-11 with the rear array installed only on the starboard side. Little is known about the capabilities and mission on the GX-11, although it was first spotted as early as 2014, but the rear array could suggest a high-powered system for directional jamming.
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